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Yash Gupta
Business School Dean

Yash Gupta

Yash Gupta is Professor and Dean of The Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

'Be like Tiger?'

Tiger Woods is the billion-dollar man. Just a few months ago, Forbes magazine reported that he became the first athlete to earn $1 billion. A lot of that money has come from his winnings on the golf course, but most of it is from endorsements of a wide range of products - including shaving razors, breakfast cereal, luxury watches, cars, financial services, and, of course, golf gear. He has won these endorsement deals because he has been seen, at least until now, as someone who represents solidity, opportunity, the future. And as a mixed-race man who's the best in a sport long dominated by white athletes, he has symbolized hope to millions of people around the world, golf fans and non-fans alike.

But now these allegations of extramarital affairs have damaged his standing as a role model. It's bad news for all the industries that have hired him as a spokesman. Celebrities such as Woods are paid exorbitant sums precisely to create the idea in consumers' minds that these various industries and their products are winners, just like Tiger Woods. Remember the Gatorade ad campaign with Michael Jordan and the slogan "Be Like Mike"? It doesn't get more obvious than that. But that's what celebrity endorsements boil down to, and now these companies endorsed by Woods have to wonder if anyone still wants to be like Tiger.

For the "CEO of golf" or any other leader who is famous and highly regarded, transparency is crucial. When such a leader makes a mistake, he has to take responsibility for it. He has to say everything that needs saying, and it must be in public, not on a Web site.

I worry that our society has become cynical after so many of these scandals. Gov. Mark Sanford's fall from grace was a topic of the "On Leadership" blog only this past summer. Last year, we were talking about Gov. Eliot Spitzer's indiscretions. The list goes on. These revelations, whether they're about an elected official or a top sports figure, seem to generate more and more cynicism. The damage to the individual at the center of the storm is painful enough; worse is the damage it does to society as a whole, to our faith in the idea that the people we choose to call leaders are truly worthy of the name.

By Yash Gupta

 |  December 8, 2009; 2:49 PM ET
Category:  Making mistakes Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Gossip on a massive scale | Next: Maximum mea culpa


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It now appears that Tiger's indiscretions were well known in the PGA and the sports media. The secret was well kept because too many people were making too much money on the his clean persona. Aside from his brillance on the course, Tiger is a made up personality, a clean athlete to sell products. Now that the secret is out, Tiger will have to concentrate on the Driver and putter to bring him back. However, do not equate his ability on the course with leadership. He is not a leader, never tried to be and never will be. He is just a golfer and a pitchman. Me, I will still follow his brilliant career with envy, even more so with all the chicks in his life.

Posted by: Joe4 | December 9, 2009 6:54 AM
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We did not consider Tiger Woods a "leader". He's just very good at golf.

If I sold golf equipment, I'd hire him to endorse my product. He could say: "My life choices have not been sound, but about golf, I still know a thing or two"

Posted by: newsriffs1 | December 9, 2009 2:17 AM
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I think it's fine that Gupta's wringing his hands over Tiger Woods' failure of leadership: it just shows how vapid the whole "leadership" discussion/obsession/industry is.

Posted by: alloleo | December 9, 2009 1:15 AM
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Gupta writes:
"I worry that our society has become cynical after so many of these scandals."

To have a cynical society would be a wonderful development!

...this from Wikipedia, regarding Cynics:

Cynicism is one of the most striking of all the Hellenistic philosophies. It offered people the possibility of happiness and freedom from suffering in an age of uncertainty. Although there was never an official Cynic doctrine, the fundamental principles of Cynicism can be summarised as follows:
1. The goal of life is happiness which is to live in agreement with Nature.
2. Happiness depends on being self-sufficient, and a master of mental attitude.
3. Self-sufficiency is achieved by living a life of Virtue.
4. The road to virtue is to free oneself from any influence such as wealth, fame, or power, which have no value in Nature.
5. Suffering is caused by false judgments of value, which cause negative emotions and a vicious character.

Why does Gupta hate the emergence of a cynical society? Why does Gupta hate virtue and self-sufficiency in people?

Posted by: munkle | December 9, 2009 1:01 AM
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I must be the only person who knew who Tiger Woods is (a very successful professional golfer) without knowing or caring at all about his personal life. The fact that Tiger Woods uses or endorses a product (except perhaps golf balls and clubs, which I wouldn't buy anyway) should not and would not have any influence over my purchases.

Posted by: harrumph1 | December 8, 2009 10:39 PM
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I didn't know that 'Leadership' is a faith.
Forsooth, I am underwhelmed!
Why don't you all get over it with Tiger.
Don't you have more important and intelligent things to scandal about, like all those who sit comfortably in your Congress and Senate and who send your sons and daughters to fight another unwinnable war in a far off land.
You should hang your own heads in shame.

Posted by: renfieldc | December 8, 2009 10:25 PM
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Tiger's dog will have knee surgery Friday.
We have 104 trillion in unfunded mandates (medicare/social security).
Tiger had sex with Oprah at a Waffle House in Sheboygan.
We're having a hard time keeping our ships fully fueled at Norfolk.
Tiger's subscription to OnStar has been renamed GoneStar.
Health care is on page C17.
Tiger wants to meet with the Juice for tips on self-defense.
Chavez is becoming Russia and China's base for operations in the Americas.
Tiger may not pass Jack anymore after developing PTSD which recurs every time he hears the swing of a golf club.
Al Gore's G 550 jet will arrive in Copenhagen; his hotel has removed the solar panels on the roof to allow his chopper to land without glare.

Posted by: EliPeyton | December 8, 2009 10:03 PM
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When you look up to sports stars as role models and heroes, you're asking for trouble. But after you eliminate athletes, clergymen, movie stars and politicians, who's left?

Posted by: djmolter | December 8, 2009 9:45 PM
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I suppose I'll get slammed for this, but wow....I guess I'm the lone voice here that generally agrees with Mr. Gupta. I think what he is saying is pretty straight-forward and common sense - nothing surprising.

I would only disagree with the idea that we "choose" people like TW to be leaders. People look up to those who are good at something. We admire them. In that way, they are leaders. We don't vote them in as such, but they are. We expect them to act with integrity (and really, in the end, it is no different than what we would assume from our own family members, religious leader, boss, etc.)

It boggles my mind how often, these days, people express this split view that how people are in their private life doesn't need to have any relationship to their public persona. I would bet that many of the posters here are under 30, and have become very cynical without even realizing it. In the last 30 or so years, the kind of behavior TW has indulged in has become more and more commonplace with public figures. That can't help but affect our society in cynical ways. How could it not?

Posted by: cmsweet9 | December 8, 2009 9:13 PM
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When you place your faith and trust in humans as a baseline of your beliefs, desires and wants; more times than not you will be disappointed. "No great expectations, no major disappointments" as I always say.

I place my faith and trust in God alone and he helps me fill in the blanks and connect the dots to those things he desires me to know and do. His will over my desires makes my day go better without a doubt.

Tiger and others to me are nothing more than sportsman and I need not look any further than my head and my heart to know there is more to this expanse of life called the universe. I feel for the person whose derailers in life which cost their reputations, family and careers.

If we all had crystal balls it would be easier to avoid. But I would not trust those either, because you never know where they were made.

Posted by: jakesfriend1 | December 8, 2009 9:03 PM
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Oh Please Mr. Gupta get real -Tiger Woods hits a little white ball for distance in what rational culture would that make him a "Leader"?

Posted by: gurudev16 | December 8, 2009 8:28 PM
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"Tiger's family may be hurting but worse is the damage to our faith in those we call leaders. "

Tiger Woods is a golf player. He is not a leader for God's sake, he's a golf player.
Anyone who thinks any sports personality is a leader needs their head examined. Seriously.

Posted by: larmoecurl | December 8, 2009 8:10 PM
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I have to echo the sentiment that's already been expressed here. Tiger Woods is an athlete and a celebrity, but by no stretch of the imagination is he a 'leader'. (Due to the solo nature of golf, you can't even make the case that he's a 'leader' like a quarterback in football.)

Posted by: oblio88 | December 8, 2009 8:05 PM
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Let us turn this around. He is made into a demi-god because he needs to sell these goods. If he was just a good golf player, nothing of this would have come to pass. He would have been a good golf player. That's all. He would have had his fun on the side, but who would have cared? i don't.

Posted by: FreshOfTheBoat | December 8, 2009 7:46 PM
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What is it that Tiger does that people admire so much that he's been turned into a demi-god by the Advertising industry? He hits little white balls. Yes he does it well I guess but obviously his very very slickly sold image never did match what he really was like. I could almost pity him if he hdn't taken his wife and kids down with him. He's a man who plays a game for a living and obviously plays games with other peoples lives too.

Posted by: Spookyshock | December 8, 2009 7:32 PM
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I fully agree with MillPond2. Mr. Woods is a professional athlete, the acknowledged best at his profession and worth watching if you want to see the best at doing something. And, he's the face for a multitude of products that we don't know if he actually uses, or if he does use, if he uses them on a regular basis along with other branded products.

He is good at his chosen profession and he is good at marketing (or, perhaps better said, marketing is good at using him). That said, that doesn't make him a leader.

If you want to consider him a leader, then sell him to people who don't personally know him by saying, "You know the way you thought Tiger Woods was? That's how you should act; that's how you should conduct yourself. The way you thought he was, the way you believed he was."

I find it fascinating all the men who brag at bars or over beer about their "conquests", and all the women who have had multiple relationships now saying they won't watch golf "because of Tiger" or that they won't buy the products he endorses "because of Tiger". If you like golf, watch it; and if Mr. Woods plays, and he's the best at the game, watch it. Did you really buy the products that he endourse? From someone you don't know, and who is getting paid very well for his endorsement? If you believed the products were good when you thought well of Mr. Woods, why would the products be less good, and less worth buying, regardless of who endorsed them, unless you think that only "good" people endorse good products.

Mr. Woods is not and was not a "leader" in any true sense of the word. What he is and was, is a professional at a particular sport, who spoke well in front of the camera for his profession and for products he was paid to endorse.


Posted by: Dungarees | December 8, 2009 7:09 PM
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First, a commentary appears in the Faith Forum on Tiger Wood's failure as a "hero". Now comes a commentary in the Leadership Forum on his failure as a "leader". Advertising endorsements are key to being a leader? People projecting their hopes and dreams on a person that they don't personally interact with defines a leader?

Do you really understand what leadership means? If not, I suggest finding another gig.

Posted by: MillPond2 | December 8, 2009 6:32 PM
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This will blow over once the family situation gets settled and Tiger
gets back to his winning ways on the tournament trail.
Over and over it is like this with celebs.

Posted by: jscroggin | December 8, 2009 6:01 PM
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Well, that's right. Tiger is not a leader, as we had thought.

The question is whether anyone is trustworthy. Anyone.

It makes me sad to be so cynical.

Posted by: Ruffles1 | December 8, 2009 5:53 PM
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How can anyone possibly consider ANY "athlete" a "leader"? Most athletes I am aware of have a) been spoiled since high scjhool (at LEAST), b) consider themselves above any rules of normal behavior, c) have a HUGE sense of entitlement and act accordingly. Their "accomplishments" are modest in the extreme - do you think it takes more concentration to play golf or to design aircraft guidance systems? As far as I'm concerned, Eldrick (can we quit calling this jerk "Tiger" now, PLEASE?????) has no more skill, concentration, or leadership than the current reigning "Donkey Kong" champ. In fact, LESS, because that guy isn't out shaking Barbies out of trees. As for the "tragedy", give ME a break. I have to look at billboards with his smug face selling WAY-overpriced watches when the clown hasn't really worked a day in his LIFE. EVER.

Posted by: Quatermass | December 8, 2009 5:42 PM
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Mr. Gupta:

I am not sure who is to blame here, but the lead-in link to your story states "Tiger's family may be hurting but worse is the damage to our faith in those we call leaders. Your view?"

Stop kidding yourself. Stop evaluating Mr. Woods' failure(s) through the myopic lens of the Business School perspective. This actually affects YOU very little, except that it gives you an opportunity to analyze, evaluate, and comment in print.

NOTHING is worse than the very public humiliation his wife and family is facing right now. NOTHING is worse than the absolute despair she must be experiencing.

His wife ought to retain the best counsel possible, seek to throw out what ever pre-nup existed, and financially punish Mr. Woods in spades (no pun intended) for the rest of his life. It's going to cost a lot of therapy for her to make peace with the idea that a man who was married to a woman as stunning as she is, who gave up a lucrative career of her own, who gave him two kids, would literally and figuratively "screw up" his marriage with not one, but eight, ten, twelve different honeys who seem to have nothing to offer other than some lithe bodies and a willingness to please. Thank God his kids are too young to understand what a horse's behind their father truly is. He has picked up his marriage and his career and with both hands shoved both into the manure pile.

I am sick and tired of anyone who thinks that athletes are "leaders." They are like prize winning race horses. They are groomed for competition, they get their pictures printed in the paper on Derby (that's pronounced Darby) Day, and reap all kinds of pretty garlands (overstuffed paychecks, endorsements, fancy cars, bejeweled fingers, necklines, teeth, and in this particular case, a whole lot of very illicit sex) for their winning efforts.

Even so, America (and the World) are starving for leadership. Few want to take the long and hard roads in education or medicine or science when, with proper grooming and an obsessive father, you too, can be a golf superstar who makes millions of dollars for hitting a little white ball...

Posted by: zanyjaynie | December 8, 2009 5:42 PM
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He is not a leader. He is a great athlete. He hits golf balls extraordinarily well. Period. He is a great person even though he did something Jesus would not do (if Jesus ever existed). Leave the man and his family alone.

Posted by: elwoll | December 8, 2009 5:34 PM
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The man makes a living putting a ball in a hole. He sure does it better than I do, but still: ball in a hole. The Onion even had an article about this: "Man Who Used Stick To Roll Ball Into Hole In Ground Praised For His Courage"


Woods is just a man, as fallible as any of us. He just has the wealth and fame to fail at a far more spectacular level. Although he certainly went out of his way to craft the perfect media image, at the end of the day it is our own fault for engaging in blind hero worship. To paraphrase Miller's Crossing, nobody knows anybody -- not that well.

Posted by: zippyspeed | December 8, 2009 5:26 PM
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Seriously, I think that every person who writes an essay about the deep meaning of Tiger Wood's extramarital affairs and the horrible erosion of trust in leaders (or any other tripe like that) should have their every word and deed - past, present and future - scrutinized and judged in a public forum. I don't think a single one would survive with their career intact.

It's only fair. And it would get some of these rotten gasbags to shut the f$#* up. Because I don't think that asking them is going to do the trick.

Posted by: bigbrother1 | December 8, 2009 5:15 PM
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Only in a culture that worships celebrity would a professional athlete be confused for a leader. Tiger has never communicated overtly or covertly that he wanted the mantle of "leader." He has consistently sought privacy and it is tragic that such a public mess has been made out of his private failings. I can't help but think that you and others like you are engaged in schadenfreude.

Posted by: ALEnglish | December 8, 2009 5:15 PM
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Please shut up now.

Posted by: bigbrother1 | December 8, 2009 5:08 PM
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